The introduction to Binocular Vision, a magnificent collection of short stories by Edith Pearlman, is written by acclaimed novelist Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto. Patchett explains that when she sat down to review the collection she thought she would put a check next to each of her favorite stories. “But,” she continues, “by the time I’d finished reading the book, every one of them was checked. Every story.”
When I read Ms. Patchet’s praise, I thought, “I know that these stories are supposed to be wonderful, but how could every story have been a favorite? She’s exaggerating.”
I was wrong. Ms. Patchett’s assessment couldn’t be more accurate. By the time I finished reading the collection I couldn’t identify my favorites either. They are all that good.
Pearlman is a masterful storyteller. Her plot lines are at the same time courageous and charming. Her characters, who span the globe from Central America to Israel to London to New England, are crafted with depth, complexity, and humanity. No matter what situation Pearlman weaves, whether it be in the midst of a forbidden love affair; presiding over the bed of a beautiful, but comatose child; or on a final visit with a dying college roommate, she conveys each life with the astute elegance that distinguishes only the most adept of writers.
I can only end with an echo of the closing words of Patchett’s introduction, “Edith Pearlman has been a secret much too long.”
Juli Berwald Ph.D. is a science writer living in Austin, Texas and the author of Spineless: the Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone. Her book on the future of coral will be published in 2021.